Early Supplier Involvement
Taking a new product idea from concept to commercialization can be a long, and often times, challenging process. But when our OEM customers bring us into the development process early in the design stage, the opportunity to identify roadblocks before they become major delays, can help them speed time to market and be more successful.
Earlier this year, our engineering team worked closely with a renewable energy OEM customer to help address functionality issues with a new product concept. The customer was in the process of troubleshooting the product frame and the fastening characteristics of its design to ensure it would expedite the installation process and withstand environmental affects once installed, while also meeting industry certification requirements.
In the race to be first to market, the customer developed several original prototypes, but considered cutting a critical corner—prototyping the final design—and going straight from final design to production, however, the product design was unable to meet industry certification requirements. This is when the OEM turned to Alexandria Industries for help.
For starters, we recommended not skipping the prototyping process, as this overlooks two critical time saving steps—testing design concepts and designing for manufacturability—which can be very costly mistakes. We also requested to work directly with the customer's design engineering team so we could easily discuss design concepts, application needs, new ideas and troubleshooting certification requirements.
“We expect our customers to demand innovation from us,” said Adam Rupp, lead project engineer. “But more importantly, we take the responsibility to work from a fresh perspective and ask customers to consider different design elements, even if they have never been done before.”
Working closely with the customer, we were able to understand the product needs and propose possible changes based on addressing the installation goals and achieving certification. We determined that the design allowed for one of three manufacturing options—coining, welding or staking. We recommended that staking the frame’s support structure was the best solution. Staking would ensure stability for the product application. We also considered what it would take to make the product manufacturable and implemented design features for ease of manufacturing and cost containment. This included developing our own in-house tooling and equipment to meet the product's manufacturing needs.
Knowing that the new product launch demands could require varying production needs, we put in place a plan to increase production as demand increased, which our multiple facilities and additional capacity could accommodate.
Encountering design challenges and manufacturing roadblocks in the new product development process is a given in today’s high-paced business environment. Early involvement of suppliers in critical steps like prototyping, or designing to meet certification or manufacturability, will reduce OEM's costs down the road.
At Alexandria Industries, we promise to tell you what you need to know to create the best possible outcomes for your products. Even if it’s news you don’t want to hear. Direct and open communication not only creates trust between the customer and the supplier, it can bring more value to the manufacturer’s new product development processes.